Knowing his Duchess Park Condors basketball team has hovered near the top senior boys provincial rankings since before the season began, Jordan Yu has tried to downplay it, just to try to keep his players grounded.
But when they collided head-on with the No. 1-ranked D.W. Graham Grizzlies last Saturday in the final of the St. Thomas More Chancellor Collegiate tournament final in Burnaby, there was no denying the magnitude of the matchup.
Given the chance to take over top billing in the province, the Condors would not be denied.
They crushed the Grizzlies with a stifling defence and a pinpoint outside attack that resulted in 17 treys in a 108-88 victory.
Tournament MVP Caleb Lyons, a Grade 11 guard, excelled in the final, nailing six of those long-distance bombs on the way to a team-high 35 points. Senior guard Jackson Kuc also stepped it up with a 24-point final, while Grade 10 guard Cole Laing shot 14 points and Emir Zejnulahovic collected 12. Laing, Kuc and Connor Lewis joined Lyons on the tournament all-star team.
"Just that game alone, 17 threes aside, the most impressive thing was just our guys playing in the moment, being Number 1 or Number 2 in the province, they played their best basketball when it was needed," said Condors head coach Jordan Yu.
"The boys were great defensively, they pushed the ball fast in transition and hit pretty much all their naked shots and executed really well. From game to game in that tournament the players got really got better and better each game. Our whole motto this year is to get one per cent better each game and they really did that and have been doing that throughout the season."
Yu played all 12 of his players in the final and the Condors did not skip a beat. He's hoping that will pay dividends the rest of the tournament season and in the zone and triple-A provincial playoffs.
"The depth of our team and the team chemistry is really starting to show," said Yu. "Our defensive principles are sticking with all the guys and they're just executing so much better on the defensive that we can rely on all 12 to actually get some stops and everyone's getting better on the offensive end.
"We're getting contributions from everyone and that's what makes it so hard (for opponents). You look on the court and it looks like five of the same guys out there. You can't really key on one guy on our team and that's what I love the most."
Now sporting a 14-3 record, the Condors have a rare weekend off to recharge the batteries and focus on their academic studies with final exams coming up next week. Their three losses were all to top-ranked quad-A teams - Centennial of Coquitlam (ranked No. 1), South Burnaby (No. 2) and Sir Charles Tupper of Vancouver (No. 5).
A new power ranking started this year which includes all tiers in the province ranks the Condors third, behind Centennial and South Burnaby. Yu can't help but think how far his players have advanced from two seasons ago when he took over a junior team that finished 31st of 32 in the blended-tier junior provincial championship.
"We're not focusing on these rankings but for a Prince George and a team from the north to be doing what these kids are doing is pretty phenomenal," said Yu. "They've been putting in the work to get there."
Yu calls Lyons "a bit of an conundrum" just because he seems to play his best games beyond the city limits. He showed that last year as a Grade 10 player in the Harry Ainlay tournament in Edmonton and was also one of the Condors' best players when they finished third at the provincial championship. In the three games leading up to the Chancellor final, Lyons had 26, 24 and 25 points.
"Sometimes at home, it's not that's he's not trying, but it looks like he's kind of floating around the court, just kind of going through the motions," said Yu. "He just steps up his game and plays much better out of town, he really amps up his level of play."
The Condors will be back in action Jan. 27-28 at the D.P. Todd tournament, then will travel to Edmonton for the Harry Ainlay tournament Jan. 31-Feb. 1. College Heights will host the triple-A zone tournament Feb. 21-22, with the provincial tournament set for Langley March 6-9.